If the 2010 Giants are looking for inspiration, a gander at the 2006 NL West standings would serve them well. The Padres, 2005 winners with a pathetic 82-80 record, repeated their feat in 2006 but managed to win 88 games. That Bruce Bochy is a hell of a manager, eh? The team exceeded their Pythagorean percentage (86-76) by two games. The Wild Card Dodgers were also 88-74, exactly matching their projection. It was a funny year--the World Series champion Cardinals won the Central with an 83-78 record, beating the 97-65 Mets in a thrilling LCS and the 95-67 Tigers in an anti-climactic Series.
Pitching was not the story in the NL. The best teams in terms of ERA+ were the Astros (109), Dodgers (106), Rockies (105), D-Backs (105), Mets (105), and Padres (104). The Padres RS/RA (731/679) put them 13th and 1st. The more balanced Dodgers RS/RA (820/751) put them at 4th and 4th. It never hurts to be number one in something, eh? And if you have to pick something, pick pitching, at least if you play in the NL West. We Giants fans can get behind that. Speaking of the G-men, they finished 3rd, 11-1/2 back, with a 746/790 RS/RA line (11th and 8th). They--like LA--matched their projected record. Felipe Alou would get booted upstairs at the end of the season and Ol' Boch would get the call. Funny how the Padres got rid of him after back-to-back titles. It almost worked for them as they won 89 games the next year under Bud Black, and the Giants finished in last place. I remember thinking then that the Pads got the better man. They played .389 ball in 2008, so perhaps not. But that's something for another post.
p.s. Did you see this shite? (Hat tip to BCB.)